Tag: Air safety

Flying the Stupid Skies

Good Lord:

Another day, another fight about reclining seats on a U.S. airline flight.

In the third serious airline legroom incident in two weeks, an angry passenger caused yet another flight to divert Monday night.

Delta Air Lines Flight 2370 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to West Palm Beach, Florida, was rerouted to Jacksonville, Florida. A passenger became irate about the traveler in front of her trying to recline her seat, a fellow passenger told CNN affiliate WPTV.

“This woman who was sitting next to me knitting actually just tried reclining her seat back,” passenger Aaron Klipin said. “The woman behind her started screaming and swearing and then a flight attendant came over and that just exacerbated what was going on and then she demanded that the flight land.”

This follows two other incidents, including one where a passenger placed a “knee defender” on a chair, refused to remove it when asked by the airline and another passenger threw water in his face.

Look, I understand that people reclining their seats in front of you is annoying. I’ve almost had a laptop crushed on one flight. Once, on a 16-hour flight from Australia, the woman in front of me kept flinging herself against the seat, trying to recline it back even further (this was also the flight where the couple next to me kept going to the bathroom. Together. They were reading a book on tantric sex. I don’t even want to know what was going on there.) Flights are growing ever more crowded and the seats ever smaller. On a recent US Air flight to London, my legs were pressed up against the seat so tightly, I could have given the guy in front of me a prostate exam with my knee. And I’m only 5’10”.

But as much as I hate cramped seats and people reclining into the empty space that used to be my gallbladder, I have to agree with all 6’2″ of Megan McArdle:

The airline owns the plane, not you. You are renting a seat from them. They have chosen to rent seats that recline. If you can’t handle someone in front of you reclining, you have a few choices: You can politely ask them not to recline, you can purchase a more expensive seat that offers more legroom, or you can find another mode of transportation. What you are not entitled to do is modify the seat to prevent it from reclining, no matter how unfair you feel life is to us tall folks. The person in front of you purchased that seat with the expectation that it would be able to recline. If your legs are actually preventing movement of the seat (which happened to me on one particularly tight flight), that’s tough luck on them. But you should not go beyond what nature has given you in the way of reclining prevention.

(She goes on to note that the water throw was also an ass and the airline over-reacted by diverting the flight and inconveniencing hundreds of people. I agree on both counts.)

Josh Barro has another suggestion: if you don’t want someone reclining into you, offer them money. I’m not sure that would work, but at least Barro’s idea provoked a hilarious incoherent response from Gawker.

Look, I know our society teaches us that we are all special snowflakes and the world must revolve around our every whim. But this is getting ridiculous. If you don’t like reclining seats, don’t fly. Or fly first class. Or boycott airlines until they remove reclining seats. But for God’s sake, don’t start fights at 38,000 feet because you suddenly don’t like the discomfort that comes with a cheap flight to Buffalo.

Survival at SFO

Like most people, when I saw the raw footage of the airplane crash at SFO on Saturday, I couldn’t believe that anyone had walked away from it. But it looks like only two people died. Two more will be paralyzed while another 30 are still hospitalized. The WSJ has a great short article on how such an awful-looking crash resulting in so mercifully few casualties. First, there were the heroes:

Mr. Rah noticed that an evacuation slide had inflated inside the plane, pinning a flight attendant against the interior cabin wall. He and another passenger tried to free the attendant, looking for something sharp with which to puncture the slide. Another passenger eventually found a way to let the air out of the slide. Mr. Rah said he has been in touch with the flight attendant’s husband, who said she sustained serious injuries but is improving.

The captain soon started screaming on the loudspeaker for everyone to evacuate. As other passengers began exiting the plane and emergency crews arrived, Mr. Rah saw another flight attendant, whose name he gave as Jiyeon Kim, carrying injured passengers down the aisle to get them off the plane.

“She was a hero,” he said. “This tiny, little girl was carrying people piggyback, running everywhere, with tears running down her face. She was crying, but she was still so calm and helping people.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco police officers at the scene had entered the plane from near the back and made their way to the front, amid worsening smoke, said Lyn Tomioka, deputy chief at the San Francisco Police Department. When they got to the front, male crew members trying to help passengers called out for knives, and the officers tossed their own knives to the men to help them cut seat belts off passengers who were struggling to get out, Ms. Tomioka said.

Click the link and check out the picture of Jiyeon Kim, who looks about 5′ 2″ and maybe weighs 100 lbs on a good day. This young woman was carrying wounded passengers off the plane until it literally went up in flames. Those pretty ladies aren’t just on those planes to serve drinks. They’re trained for this sort of thing. And they almost always come through.

There’s another aspect: regulation.

Regulators in the late 1980s mandated all-new passenger planes must have seats able to withstand stronger impacts than in the past—practices that the Federal Aviation Administration ordered in 2005 be applied to nearly all passenger planes by October 2009. As part of those rules, seats on jetliners must be able in tests to survive collisions that slam them forward at 16 times the force of gravity, or 16g, to ensure the seats don’t collapse or detach from the floor. A Boeing spokesman said the company has been delivering all its jets with 16g-rated seats since 2009.

Before the advent of such stronger seats, Mr. Hiatt said, the intense vertical and horizontal force generated by a crash like Saturday’s “would have caused many more seats to break free and pancake into each other, probably blocking exit paths.”

Mr. Hiatt also said improved fire-resistant materials used on seats and other parts of the cabin “likely helped the fire from intensifying so quickly.”

Some of this safety has come from the market — Boeing specifically designed the 777 to be evacuated in 90 seconds even if half the doors were blocked. Neither airlines nor airplane builders want people to die. But the regulations have proven a critical push to go above and beyond. We’ve had multiple planes hit and break apart with minimal casualties because of the tougher design of the seats specifically.

Because of the vergence of these trends — better engineering, better regulation, better training and faster emergency response, air travel is now light years safer than any form of travel in human history. Since 2000, while airline travel has ramped up, less than a 1000 people have died on American airplanes while nearly half a million have been killed on the nation’s highways. If you exclude 9/11, you’re talking about 20 people per year. In short, you’re more likely to die falling on the curb on the way to the airport than you are on the plane. Globally, 2012 saw the fewest deaths in the sky since 1945 when the Fw 190 was the state of the art.

Capitalistic self-interest, professionalism, prosperity, training and a bit of sensible regulation. Funny how well that works, isn’t it?

Spice That Up For You?

I’m assuming this is not perverts pretending to be TSA agents so they can put stuff in our drinks:

The latest — well, not the latest, actually, just finally picked up by the mainstream media — is that TSA agents, while randomly roaming around at the gate, well past the checkpoint, are not only singling out passengers for yet another grope or a paw through the bags, but also “testing” the beverages they’re drinking.

I know — I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you can’t make this stuff up.

Yes, dear reader, that water or coffee or soft drink in your cup, the one you bought after you passed through the checkpoint, in the so-called sterile area? That could contain a bomb! And you didn’t even know it!

Thank heavens the TSA is here to save the day. As they dip their little Magic Bomb-Detecting Stick into your beverage, be sure to smile and thank them. After all, they’re Keeping You Safe.

TSA defends the practice here, calling it layered security. I call bullshit. I am long past being generous with TSA. I don’t think it’s even security theater anymore. I think they are seeing how far they can push us until we stop complying.

The day is coming when we will see video of TSA agents manhandling someone because they didn’t want their drink sampled or their kid groped. And, to TSA and their bootlicking proponents, this will just mean we have to empower them all the more.

The TSA Follies: A Trifecta

You ever get the feeling that the TSA is trying to piss us off?

A few readers have pointed to a story on Facebook, posted by a Montana mom who was flying home from Kansas with her two young children and their grandmother.

According to the poster, she and her kids got through the checkpoint without trouble but grandma had triggered the alarm. She went through the scanner again, but the screener could not firmly ID what was setting off the alarm, and grandma was asked to have a seat and wait for a pat-down.

This is when the 4-year-old ran over to give grandma a hug:

Do I even need to tell you the rest of the story? I don’t, do I? They yelled at the child, forbad the mother from talking to her, patted her down. When the 4-year-old understandably resisted, the TSA threatened to shut down the airport, demanded the mother calm the child, etc., etc. All under the that grandma had passed the kid a gun, which she was storing in her little pants, apparently. Consumerist contacted the TSA who confirmed the basics of the incident but said that TSA agents followed “proper procedure”. For all of us familiar with TSA — hell, those of us familiar with many law enforcement agencies — we know what that means. It means what TSA inscribed on this complaint form.


This isn’t about security. This is about power. Power and control. The TSA’s absolute power and control, and passengers’ lack of same.

Exactly. This agency is not really accountable. They have been given almost no restrictions on their budget or their authority. We were warned about this when the agency was created and we didn’t listen. Thank God they are at least restricted to … oh, crap:

A new program in Houston will place undercover TSA agents and police officers on buses whose job it will be to perform bag searches, watch for “suspicious activity” and interrogate passengers in order to ‘curb crime and terrorism’.

Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee unveiled the program, labeled Bus Safe, during a press conference on Friday.

Wait, a minute, you say. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee? Isn’t she a big liberal? Why, yes she is. She’s a big liberal who loves the Security State. She worships TSA and was furious when a law was passed that would allow airports to replace TSA with private contractors. Put a pin in that for a second.

Immediately after the program was launched, TSA began questioning passengers. This is an addition to the 9000 check points they put up last year to do random searches of vehicles. And do you want to place bets on how many terrorists they caught against how many people they caught with drugs or some other illegal item?

Now back to the pin: private agencies. Imagine how the situation with the 4-year-old; or the situation with Amy Alkon; or the situation with the video blogger; or a hundred other situations would have played out with a private security agency — a business. Instead of ignoring the problem, the liberals would gone nuts. Sheila Jackson Lee would have been on TV demanding the agency be fired. We would have non-stop press coverage uncovering donations the agency made to politicians. They would have been held accountable. And because of that constant unending threat of accountability — because the people providing the service could be fired — the abuses might not have happened in the first place. And if they were exposed by the media for letting guns and bombs through, they’d also be fired.

Neither party has an interest in this. Both are supporting TSA. The only way we will reclaim our liberty is to demand it, regardless of who is in power. We the citizens have to take care of this. Because no one else will.

When Pilots Attack

Holy shit:

A JetBlue Airways Corp. flight was diverted Tuesday after the captain was locked out of the cockpit for “erratic behavior,” then ran up and down the aisle and banged on the cockpit door before being subdued by passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and accounts from passengers.

The FAA said in a statement that the co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit after becoming concerned with his behavior. A person familiar with the matter said the captain was attempting to flip switches in the cockpit that shouldn’t have been flipped.

Locked out of the cockpit, he became enraged, said Mr. Antolino and another passenger, Grant Heppes, a 22-year-old marketing director from New York who was sitting near the rear of the cabin. Mr. Heppes said he watched the captain run up and down the aisle before hearing banging on the cockpit door, “and the co-pilot came over the loudspeaker saying, ‘Do not let him in. Restrain him.’ ”

Mr. Antolino said he and three other male passengers then restrained the captain, whom he described as “a big, strong guy.” who “put up a good struggle.” During the tussle, the captain shouted that Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan “are going to take us down,” Mr. Antolino said. “He had a delusion that something was going to happen. And then he suggested everybody say the Lord’s Prayer. Then that was it; we just tackled him.”

There’s plenty of cell phone video out there where you can hear him ranting and raving.

You know what? I’m encouraged by this. This is about the worst situation we can imagine: a pilot losing it. And … once again … it was the ordinary Americans — the-copilot and the passengers — who dealt with it.

For all our security theater, all our pat-downs of wheelchair-bound three year olds, all TSA’s boasting about catching explosives on their second attempt, we are our own last best line of defense. We see this over and over again: the heroic passengers of United 93; the passengers who caught and subdued the shoe bomber; the passengers who stopped and subdued the undie bomber; and now the passengers on Jet Blue.

You can keep your multi-billion dollar security industry. I’ll put my faith in my fellow Americans.

The TSA Pushback

Our wonderful TSA reached new lows recently with their pat down of a baby and a groping of a MIss USA contestant that reduced her to tears. And they’re finally beginning to reap some pushback.

First, Texas:

The Texas House of Representatives late on Thursday approved a bill that would make invasive pat-downs at Texas airports a crime, after a former Miss USA said she felt “molested” at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport last month.

Transportation Security Administration agents could be charged with a misdemeanor crime, face a $4,000 fine and one year in jail under the measure.

The proposal would classify any airport inspection that “touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person” as an offense of sexual harassment under official oppression.

Of course, TSA will respond to this by shunting everyone into the X-ray scanners — at least until Texas outlaws them too. But I like the idea of the states wresting his issues from the Feds, who clearly don’t give a shit and will support anything as long as it has a big red “security” label on the front.

Or maybe not. Congress is moving too. The House Appropriations just put out its draft budget.

The bill includes $7.8 billion for the TSA, an increase of $125 million over last year’s level, and $293 million below the President’s request. These funds will be used to sustain the current cap level of 46,000 full time screening personnel, and for explosive detection systems, security enforcement, cargo inspections, Federal Air Marshals, and other TSA activities. The bill also includes an additional $10 million to address air cargo threats. However, the bill does not provide $76 million requested by the President for 275 additional advanced inspection technology (AIT) scanners nor the 535 staff requested to operate them.

This is just a minor thing in the ongoing budget war (we hit the debt ceiling today). But maybe … just maybe … someone’s getting the message.